‘Effective Conservation Of Sea Turtle Species’

May 3, 2023 | 0 Comments

The Sargasso Sea Commission and Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention signed an MOU aimed at “more effective conservation of sea turtle species and the habitats that they utilize.”

A spokesperson said, “During the Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention [IAC] 16th Consultative Committee of Experts Meeting, Dr. David Freestone, Executive Secretary of the Sargasso Sea Commission, and Verónica Caceres, Executive Secretary for the Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention, signed a Memorandum of Understanding [MOU] on behalf of the Secretariats of the SSC and IAC.

A Look At The Sargasso Sea [footage courtesy of Greenpeace]:

“The objective of the MOU is to provide a framework for collaboration in the work of IAC and SSC to promote, within their respective mandates, the more effective conservation of sea turtle species and the habitats that they utilize and upon which they depend, as well as to promote the dissemination of the best available scientific evidence regarding their important ecosystem role.

“A draft of the MOU was presented at the 15th IAC Consultative Committee of Experts Meeting in March 2022, and the final wording was approved at the IAC 10th Conference of the Parties, which took place in June 2022 in Panama. The Sargasso Sea Commission has maintained a longstanding relationship with IAC, collaborating to develop a ‘Concept Note on the importance of Sargassum and the Sargasso Sea for Atlantic Sea Turtles‘ in 2014.

“The Sargasso Sea plays a pivotal role in sea turtle development and survival by providing a crucial ecosystem for all five species of Atlantic Sea turtle. It serves as the centre of the dispersal routes for Atlantic turtles hatching on the coasts of North America, Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean. After hatchling sea turtles leave the nesting beach, they take up a pelagic lifestyle, using floating rafts of Sargassum for development. Living in Sargassum provides cover for sea turtles at a point in their lives when predation is high, and the organisms living within Sargassum provide them with an easy source of prey. In addition, it is thought that Sargassum traps heat and provides a warmer environment for developing turtles.

“Following their juvenile surface-pelagic life stage, a large number of green and hawksbill turtles graduate from the Sargassum habitat to use Bermuda’s extensive reefs and seagrass beds as a developmental neritic habitat during their adolescence. However, Bermuda is not the final adult habitat for the majority of turtle species.”

“It is my pleasure to sign this MOU,” Verónica Caceres, Executive Secretary for the Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention, said, “and I am also pleased to announce that the Consultative Committee has agreed to create a working group to draft a work plan setting out opportunities for collaboration between IAC and SSC.”

“I am delighted that the Commission can develop its relationship with IAC by signing this MOU,” said Dr. David Freestone, Executive Secretary of the Sargasso Sea Commission. “Turtles have always been a flagship species for us – they really cannot live without the Sargasso Sea. This MOU will bring about tremendous opportunities for collaboration under our Fonds Français pour l’Environnement Mondial and Global Environment Facility projects.”

Speaking at the event, Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs Walter Roban said, “In the early 1600s, Bermuda passed some of the first conservation legislation in the new world – and it was for turtles, to make sure that too many young turtles weren’t harvested before they had the chance to reproduce. I’m happy to say that the work of the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo, and the Bermuda Turtle Project, the world’s longest-running monitoring programme for intermediate-stage turtles, provided useful resources to that initial concept note. I look forward to the new strides that can be made in turtle conservation with the signing of this MOU.”

The spokesperson said, “Also in attendance were members of the IAC Consultative Committee Meeting, Sophia Ly, Knauss Marine Policy Fellow, Office of International Affairs, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dr. Tammy Warren, Sargasso Sea Commissioner and Senior Marine Resources Officer for the Government of Bermuda, and Fae Sapsford, Marine Research Fellow for the Sargasso Sea Commission.

“As of 2023, the ten Signatory Governments to the Hamilton Declaration are the Azores, The Bahamas, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cayman Islands, the Dominican Republic, the Principality of Monaco, the United Kingdom and the United States.”

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